Is Your House Leaking Money? (Like Ours Is)

A few years ago I wrote about how our home experienced some water damage related to an ice dam that had built up along our roof which caused water to leak inside the walls of our house. It was our first experience with ice dams and resulted in my learning more than I ever wanted to about their formation.

ice dam claim(For those who don't know, ice dams build-up when the roof deck is not the same temperature as the outside – so the snow melts, freezes and melts – causing a build-up of ice which eventually creeps its way up past your ice/water barrier – and when that happens all sorts of fun happens. Essentially, your home has an energy leak(s) somewhere which is causing the attic to be warmer than it should be – resulting in a warmer roof.)

We thought we had everything figured out after the clean-up and reconstruction efforts. 

So, when I had spotted water coming through our window yet again this year – I was dumbfounded. “Hadn't we properly sealed the house?” “Why are we still getting ice dams?

After calling up our insurance agent, he assessed things and told us point blank: “We lose our shirts in Minnesota. It's just part of doing business here“. They basically accept the fact they will likely be paying out more in claims than what they are taking in due to location-specific weather-related incidents like ice dams.

And after we had brought in several professionals to determine what could be done about our “leaky house”, everyone seemed to have a different conclusion.

  • Make sure you keep the bathroom fans running
  • Seal up all of your open outlets
  • Add more insulation

Growing frustrated, my wife concluded that we should call the University of Minnesota to see if they had any solutions. Fortunately they did – and got us in touch with a company that specializes in ice dam prevention and eliminating energy leaks in the home.

Most of our homes have energy leaks

Needless to say, we are all losing some money from “leaky houses”. But according to the company we brought in to assess our home, the goal is to minimize these leaks and to create a nicely “sealed” container – while allowing the house to breath as well.

After doing a series of tests on our house, here are some of the results of their findings:

Attic Leaks

insulation Inside our attic, the inspectors found areas that had insulation blown away around it due to the pressure from air leaking through holes that were not properly sealed. I learned that no amount of insulation will keep air from flowing through a house if it not properly sealed. 

The remedy for this is to seal those areas to ensure a consistent pressure throughout the attic.


Poor Insulation / Seals

[caption id="attachment_5087" align="aligncenter" width="538"]This is an infrared shot of a wall in our kitchen. The fact that you can "see through" the wall, is not a good thing. It has poor insulation. This is an infrared shot of a wall in our kitchen. The fact that you can “see through” the wall, is not a good thing. It has poor insulation.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5085" align="aligncenter" width="538"]Another infrared shot inside a bathroom. The dark areas are a bad sign and show areas that are not properly insulated/sealed. Another infrared shot inside a bathroom. The dark areas are a bad sign and show areas that are not properly insulated/sealed.[/caption]

How to find your leaks

While the findings of our recent “energy/home audit” were disheartening, it was a relief we were finally able to find out why were were experiencing so much heat lose every winter. Basically, our home is a sieve.

Here in the Upper Midwest we are more prone to be vigilant about energy loss in our homes because we can spend so much heating them every winter.

But leaking homes aren't just a northern problem. If you live in warmer climates and run your A/C from time to time, you can experience a significant amount of energy loss in how many times your house needs to condition the air if your home is not sealed properly.

Many utility companies are now offering energy audits that can help you pinpoint the problem areas in your home. Some of these services are free (or subsidized like ours) or fee-based.

Some important tests you might want them to run are:

  • Blower-door tests and
  • Infrared imagery

Another sign you may have a lot of energy leakage could be when you talk to you neighbor. If he/she is setting their home at similar conditions to yours AND are open/willing to discuss their bills with you – it might be a bad sign if they are paying less than you in heating/cooling costs.

Have you ever done an energy audit on your home to find air leaks / insulation deficiencies? What did you find out?

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  1. Very good info! We had an ice dam at our old house cause damage to our ceiling. When we were able to add insulation and seal everything up, we were impressed at our energy savings… (And no more water damage!)

    • That’s encouraging to know you were able to get er figured out Christina! Seems like a lot of insulation companies just throw on more insulation – when they need to be sealing areas too.

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